Behold the Lamb of God

01-14-2018Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 43, No. 1

Today we hear the stories of people being called unexpectedly by the Lord. In the first reading, it takes a few times before Samuel realizes that God is calling him; he believes it is his mentor, Eli, who calls out to him as he sleeps. It is only after Eli instructs him to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” that Samuel responds appropriately (1 Samuel 3:19). In the Gospel, Andrew also needs the testimony of a more knowledgeable person, in this case, John the Baptist. When John points out the stranger—“Behold the Lamb of God”—Andrew and another disciple hear him and immediately follow Jesus (John 1:36). Andrew in turn tells his brother, Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). The church year has moved into Ordinary Time now and it is appropriate that these invitations come on otherwise ordinary days. We are no longer at the manger, nor are we at the empty tomb. Neither Samuel nor Andrew witnessed a historic event. But their ordinary day (or night) turned momentous because of their encounter with the Lord.

Are you ready to be called by the Lord? What will be your response?

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There are no Foreignors in Christ

01-07-2018Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 43, No. 1

The focus of today's readings is on outsiders, for on Epiphany we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord to all people. In Isaiah, the Chosen People themselves are outsiders, for they are returning from fifty years of exile to a desolate Jerusalem. The city and the temple needed to be rebuilt. Looking outward, they had faith that Jerusalem would soon shine forth as a beacon to foreign lands. In the Gospel, the magi traveled to Bethlehem from afar to seek the child. They were foreigners, and they are the first in Matthew's Gospel to pay Jesus homage. The passage ends with the magi spurning Herod as they returned home, but Matthew goes on to tell how the Holy Family fled to Egypt in order to avoid the homicidal king. The infant Jesus and his parents become refugees in a foreign country, a country which had been a sworn enemy centuries before. Exiles, foreigners, and refugees; they play the main roles in today's readings. They play the main role in the formation and the mission of the Church. Truly, we are all "members of the same body" (Ephesians 3:6). There are no foreigners in Christ.

Do you welcome those looking for a home—in your parish, your community, your country?

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The Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph

12-31-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 43, No. 1

Today we hear the Gospel passage that ends with the Holy Family returning to Nazareth. Very little is written about Jesus between his infancy and his adulthood. It is left to the imagination what Jesus' life was like, or indeed what his family's life was like for that entire time. We know that they lived in Nazareth of Galilee. We know that Joseph was a carpenter. Did Jesus learn the trade as well? Did he help his father out when he got older? Significantly, we never see or hear from Joseph in the Gospels during the time Jesus is an adult. It is theorized that he probably died sometime before Jesus left Nazareth and began his public ministry. What would that have been life for his family? Was Joseph unable to work in his later years? Did Jesus help Mary take care of his aging foster father? Was Mary a single mother before Jesus became an adult? Did she rely on relatives, friends, and neighbors as she raised her son? We don't know the answers to these questions, but we can assume that the Holy Family faced a lot of the same concerns and difficulties that other families have faced, that families continue to face today.

In what ways might the Holy Family be like your family?

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Are you Receptive to God’s Will?

12-24-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 43, No. 1

The Fourth Week of Advent is surprisingly short this year. It starts today and it ends today. After all, it's already Christmas Eve! The readings today also offer a couple of surprises, one to David and one to Mary. In Second Samuel, David wants to build a house (a dwelling place) for the ark of the covenant. But God tells the prophet Nathan that instead God will establish a house (a dynasty) of David. It is a much more important kind of house, a house that provides for all of Israel. In the Gospel, we find out that Joseph is of the house of David, connecting Jesus to this dynasty that God promised would endure forever. But the thrust of the message of today's Gospel is the announcement that the angel Gabriel brings and Mary's acceptance. In Mary, the Father has chosen a dwelling place for the Son. Mary, shocked by the news, was troubled and could not believe it was possible. But after being reassured by the angel and told that Elizabeth has also conceived a son, she accepts her role: " 'May it be done to me according to your word'" (Luke 1:38). Mary is a perfect model of receptivity to God's will.

What does God ask of us in order to bring Jesus into our hearts? Are we receptive?

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My Spirit Rejoices in God my Savior

12-17-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 43, No. 1

Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, Gaudete meaning rejoice in Latin. The Church marks this Sunday as an occasion to focus on the joy, instead of the anxiety, in our wait for Jesus’ coming. Many of us are in panic mode at this time as we try to do all the things we need to do by Christmas. But today is a day of rejoicing. In the reading from Isaiah, God’s chosen people had just returned from exile. They are truly feeling “a year of favor...a day of vindication” (Isaiah 61:2). In the responsorial psalm we hear the words of Mary after she was visited by the angel Gabriel. She had been anxious when the angel first told her the news and no doubt would be anxious again when traveling to Bethlehem in her ninth month. But for now she proclaims, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47), and praises what God has done for her and God’s chosen people. Paul likewise encouraged the Thessalonians to “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). And in the Gospel John introduces us to John the Baptist, who quotes Isaiah as “ the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23).

What gives us joy a week before Christmas?

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Be Patient and Prepare the way of the Lord

12-10-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 43, No. 1

Waiting can be the most difficult thing to endure, especially when you wonder if it will ever end. Whether waiting for a bus in the middle of winter or waiting to find out whether you will get that promotion you want, the stress can be overwhelming. The writer of this section of Isaiah knows what this is like. He wrote during the period in which God’s chosen people lived in exile. But he brings comfort and hope. He foresees a time when God will move mountains to prepare a way out of the desert. And God will do so tenderly, for “in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom” (Isaiah 40:11). The author of Second Peter wrote during another difficult time, about one hundred years after Jesus. Christians who believed that the Second Coming was imminent were losing faith. He reassured them that human understanding of time was not like God’s. In fact, our God is a patient God, giving time for people to be brought to repentance. God’s promise finds voice in John the Baptist “crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’” (Mark 1:3). He is coming. We just need patience.

When have you lost patience while waiting? What helps you persevere while you wait?

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Are you allowing God to mold you?

12-03-2017Weekly ReflectionsWe Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 2

Advent is significantly shorter this year. Last year Advent began on November 27; this year it begins nearly a whole week later. It makes us even more anxious. We have less time to buy presents, write cards, bake cookies, decorate the home, prepare for gathering, and so on. The passage from Mark's Gospel we hear today warns us to be ready, but in a different sense. We are to be prepared, not in the sense of having presents wrapped and the tree trimmed, but prepared to receive Christ into our lives in a special way. The people of Isaiah's time were not prepared. They had turned away from God time and again. The prophet admonishes God's people, himself included, saying, "we have all withered like leaves," an image certainly appropriate to this season (Isaiah 34:5). But the passage closes with the assurance that God can mold us, as a potter works the clay. The Christian community in Corinth allowed this to happen and Saint Paul assures them that God "will keep you firm to the end," molding them, as it were, into a faithful people (1 Corinthians 1:8).

How have you allowed God to mold you? Are you firm in your faithfulness to God?

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